Rina (front row, centre) with her WAJA Squad, all ready to empower women against violence.

AT the end of September last year, the Cabinet ministers were instructed to present a report card so that their performance in the first 100 days in office could be evaluated by all.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the implementation of initiatives by ministers would be based on six core principles – restructuring the economy, guaranteeing the country’s security and order, boosting social well-being, increasing infrastructure, strengthening unity in the Malaysian Family, and enhancing delivery.

On Nov 16, Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun shared the numerous programmes her team had been working on to advance women’s well-being as well as to build harmonious families.

The ministry focused on five aspirations for the Malaysian Family which centre around social well-being, promoting the concepts of inclusivity (keterangkuman), common ground (kebersamaan) and contentment or gratitude (kesyukuran).

One important programme set up by the KPWKM through the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) is the toll-free FamilyCare@LPPKN Helpline (1-800-82-0300).

The helpline offers marriage and family counselling, and hopes to tackle the escalating numbers of divorce in the country.

The Star reported last Nov 16 that Malaysia sees an average of five divorce applications filed every hour. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, there have been more than 76,000 divorce applications filed between March 2020 and August 2021.

“In reality, the issue of household breakdowns got much worse, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic which severely hampered the economic resources of Malaysians, especially within individual households,” said Rina.

“The increase in global poverty was another reflection of the gloomy quality of life which many people are facing today. Almost everyone has been saddled with new challenges and these have put cracks in families everywhere.

“What’s worse is that with social media these days, people’s problems and especially household issues are easily spread on the grapevine. The government takes this matter very seriously. Privacy and sensitivity are paramount,” she said.

The ministry has been sensitive to the need in society for a responsible listening ear and is ready to offer assistance, especially where women are concerned, she added, as more often than not women are the silent peacemakers in their homes, fighting to keep their families intact.

“LPPKN counsellors who operate the FamilyCare helpline are trained counsellors and registered with the Malaysian Board of Counsellors,” Rina assured.

“They handle client cases according to established counselling ethics and all information shared by clients is kept confidential.”

The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry is happy to note that as a result of the hotline, a total of 1,833 cases have been resolved.

In line with keeping harmony in families, and prioritising the wellbeing of women, the ministry formed the WAJA Squad (WE VAW).

The WAJA Squad comprises volunteers under the supervision of the Women’s Development Department, and aims to empower the community through psychological, social and counselling services raising awareness about crime while uniting and empowering women against violence.

According to the department, 289,212 people received information related to advocacy to end violence against women, on the WAJA Squad modules as well as legal and destress clinics.

A total of 122,287 people (men and women) have been trained as WAJA Squad members, with more to come.

“The WAJA Squad’s role in the community, especially during the pandemic, is very meaningful as they managed to provide much-needed assistance,” Rina said.

The WAJA Squad module was developed to ensure that structured training would be implemented. This module focuses on building up knowledge and psychological support, as well as legal literacy.

The WAJA Squad also receives advice from the police on what steps to take when assisting victims.

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